A night after perhaps their worst performance of the season the Massachusetts hockey team looked much better as they hosted the Vermont Catamounts. UMass would play well enough to take a 4-2 lead into the final period. However they ran out of gas late, gave up four third period goals, and ended up falling to UVM 6-4. There were a number of positives to take away from the game, such as the offensive reemergence of Dennis Kravchenko and Austin Plevy as well as Nic Renyard’s performance in net. However the team still cannot find a way to win and are now 1-12-0 in their last 13 games. In addition John Micheletto is now winless in his last 8 games against his former team.
Dennis Kravchenko would score his first goal since October eleven minutes into the game when he deflected a Ben Gallacher shot behind Catamount goaltender Packy Munson. Two minutes later UVM’s Alexx Privitera would score the first of two goals to tie the game at one apiece. Patrick Lee scored a power play goal two minutes after that on a nice pass from Ray Pigozzi to give UMass a 2-1 lead. Kravchenko would tip in another Gallacher shot, this time on the power play, to give UMass a 3-1 lead after one period.
Early in the second in a play that would have a major impact on the game and perhaps beyond, defenseman Callum Fryer was hit along the boards with, what appeared to me, to be a very high hit. After some time down on the ice Fryer would be helped to the locker room and did not return. For reasons I don’t understand, no penalty was called. I can’t say for certain that there was contact to the head, but it was very close. There were a litany of other infractions that could’ve been called on the play as well that were not. Missing Fryer, arguably their best defender in recent play, would ultimately be too much for the Minutemen to handle.
UVM cut UMass’ lead to 3-2 halfway through the second period on Alexx Privitera’s second goal of the night, this one on the power play. But Austin Plevy would give UMass a two goal lead again with just over five minutes left thanks to his first goal since early November. In the back half of that second period UMass started to take a lot of bad penalties and while they were successful in killing off the subsequent power plays they expended a lot of energy in doing so. Especially without Callum Fryer.
UMass came out in the third and looked dead tired. UVM cut the lead to 4-3 with an early goal in the third. Then Steven Iacobellis would go off for his third penalty of the night early on in the third and Vermont would grab a power play goal to tie the game at 4-4. Vermont would take the lead halfway through the third when they jumped on a loose puck that found its way into the slot. The Catamouts would seal the deal with an empty net goal to take the 4-6 decision.
After a strong first period where UMass had 12 shots on goal to UVM’s 15, they would get just 10 shots for the rest of the game. Losing Fryer and having to kill so many penalties in the 2nd period drained the team and they just did not have the legs to hold off Vermont in the third period. Micheletto quickly pointed to the officiating as the reason UMass lost in both his postgame interview with WHMP and in his press conference. He is totally justified in his anger that no penalty was called on the play where he lost one of his key defensemen on the night. The Fryer no-call was ridiculous and I’m guessing the chapter is not closed as the league could still hand down a penalty on the Catamount who hit him or at least put out a statement as to why there was nothing called on the play.
However Micheletto’s biggest grievance seems to be with the fact UMass was called for six straight penalties in the second and third periods. The fact that they had to kill so many penalties was a major factor, as doing so was probably a main reason why they looked so drained in the third period. However, Micheletto does not acknowledge the fact that UMass had the penalty advantage in the first where their 4 to 2 power play advantage in the first period where their two extra man goals helped them establish a lead. Half of UMass’ 12 shots in the opening period came on the power play. Also, in my opinion, UMass deserved most if not all of the penalties they were called for after the first period. Were there ones that Vermont got away with during the same time? Likely. But the fact is UMass took some really bad penalties when it mattered most and they ended up paying for it. That comes back to discipline, which comes back to the coach.
Micheletto has every right to be frustrated with the officiating. But he goes too far in blaming the officiating for the loss. He has been quick to deflect blame for the teams woes pretty much throughout his career. Even if he legitimately has a case with his complaints they ring hollow because he’s pegged the blame for his teams losing continuously. The team is young. He needs his players. Too many road games. The officials screwed us. When fans hear excuses loss after loss they’ll grow deaf to them, even if there’s some merit to the complaint.
It was incredibly disappointing to see UMass cough up a two goal lead in the third period to lose yet again. Yet, there was a lot to be optimistic about. Kravchenko and Plevy finding the scoreboard again is an important development for the team. Both have played well for a number of weeks, even before Kravchenko’s injury, but just couldn’t find the net. Nearly all of the scoring in the last few weeks has come from Shane Walsh, Steven Iacbobellis, or Ray Pigozzi. While Pigozzi was a big part of last night with his two assists, all four goals came from players who had not been part of the scoring recently. If UMass is going to get some more wins down the stretch players like Kravchenko, Plevy, and Lee scoring will be necessary to do so. The loss hurts but those guys’ performance was a step forward.
On the other side of the ice Nic Renyard was another bright spot despite giving up five goals on the night. With his 40 saves it marks the fourth time this season he’s broken the 40 save mark. He played well enough where he deserved a better fate. He had to be on his toes all night as UVM attempted 89 shots while UMass had only 40 attempts. Packy Munson, his adversary on the far side of the ice, has been the freshman goaltender phenom du jour but Renyard outperformed him on the night with an even strength save percentage advantage of .912 to .867.
The loss was a tough one, but it was a huge improvement over the poor effort and execution of Friday night. If the team plays against Maine at home next weekend like they did against Vermont they should win a game or two. The embarrassment of Friday seemed to hit home and they responded. They weren’t able to hang in there due to having to unexpectedly play shorthanded, but the strong effort remained constant throughout the game. Last night was a game to build off of and with next weekend shaping up to be the battle to stay out of last place, the loss to Vermont could end up being a step forward despite its appearances.
Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Dennis Kravchenko
Kravchenko had struggled for an extended period before his two goal performance against UVM. His last goal was on 10/30. His last assist was on 11/13. But he’s still been such an important player to this team that his return from injury on Friday was a reason for celebration. It was not lack of effort that led to his long scoreless streak as he just seemed snakebitten at times. So it’s good to seem him get back scoring.
Daily Collegian has their recap.
Here’s a Catamount view from the Burlington Free Press.